. What are a few of the stressors
students wrestle with in today’s culture that Pressure
Points directly addresses? How are the challenges of today different from
those of previous generations? Shelby
The book is divided into three main sections, addressing purpose, relationships and difficulties. Under those mains sections, I dive into relevant topics such as: God’s will, drinking, sex, pornography, relating to parents, friends, dating, authentic community, the fear of missing out (FOMO), struggling with failure, blocked goals, and even spiritual warfare. It’s a lot of helpful advice in one concise package that aims for practical gospel solutions.
Because of technology and a smartphone in nearly everyone’s pocket, culture is quite different from previous generations. New temptations, means of gathering information, social constructs, and solution attempts are all approached through the lens of a technology-driven culture, and this presents new gospel opportunities to speak to unique cultural challenges. I cannot ignore the obviousness of technological influence on students while pointing them to biblical answers.
What exactly do you mean by “gospel solutions”?
When you begin to unpack the gospel, you discover very quickly that it is a bottomless pit of grace. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the answer to all of our struggles, but it can be difficult to see that when you are in the midst of feeling life’s pressures. This book is an attempt to lovingly guide young men and women toward the good news we read about in the pages of Scripture and help them understand that there are practical applications of the gospel in the big and small of everyday struggles. The gospel helps us to understand and know our place in life, and hopefully see how relevant it is to any and everyone, regardless of what the culture may look like today.
Can you share a little of your background with college students and why your experience helps you speak to them in a relevant and compelling way? How has humor helped you break down walls with college students in your ministry?
Because of my close interaction with college students for nearly 20 years as a minister on campus and director of summer mission trips with university students, I’ve been uniquely tuned in to what they experience and struggle with on a consistent basis. I address those issues head-on in ways others perhaps only write about in theory. I’ve also periodically done stand-up comedy in front of college students for the last 19 years, so I’m well aware of what they find funny and what can bomb, so this book attempts to speak to them poignantly while peppering in humor where appropriate.
Humor has the ability to break down walls in ways that practically no other medium can. As a result, it can be a powerful conduit for delivering gospel truth because so many students are willing to listen and accept a message that comes on the heels of something that makes them laugh.
Why is the fear of missing out (FOMO) so prevalent among today’s college students? How does technology shine a light on some of the pressure points in a student’s life?
Because of technology’s ability to show us everything that’s going on in the world right now, today’s young generation has been consumed by the idea that other better options are prevalent and attainable to them. Most college-aged Christians wrestle with FOMO all the time, and it has dramatically affected how they go about life. Their anxiety has increased, and they aren’t experiencing the abundant life Jesus promises to us. I explore some practical gospel solutions to this in the book, and I like to re-read those parts to myself regularly because this is an ongoing struggle for me too.
I wouldn’t say technology itself is the problem, rather I’d say technology forces the real problems to the surface of our lives so they become easy to spot. Fear, laziness, apathy, and the like are all attitudes that have always been around for generations, but technology has made them more clearly visible.
Dating has always been a pressure point for college students, but how has technology changed the modern dating scene? In what ways is the digital, online presentation of a person not an accurate picture of their true self?
Dating in general doesn’t really exist in the way it did before the age of the smartphone. What I’d call “traditional dating” is considered very old-fashioned and unbearably awkward for so many young people, to the point people are no longer asking one another out on dates, they’re just succumbing to the norm of “hook-up culture.” Sadly, that way of interacting with the opposite sex has quickly bled over onto the Christian scene. No, not as many Christian college students are hooking up and engaging in random sexual flings as compared to non-believing students, but the noncommittal kind of “whatever” attitude about relationships with the opposite sex is definitely present. Young people can hide behind the safety of their phones and protect themselves from any kind of face-to-face social anxiety simply by texting the opposite sex instead of engaging with them in person. The person-to-person interaction still has to happen, however, and I’ve found that part of relational interaction between the sexes is still a source of significant pressure for them.
Why has escapism become such a problem for college students?
Escapism has essentially become an idol that college students run to in order to fill the void they’re wrestling with in college. Post high school is often a time of self-reflection and discovery about who you are and what you want to do. Inevitably, young people are being pushed in ways they’re not used to because there’s the element of being on your own and feeling like an adult for probably the first time in your life. And when the pressures of college begin to squeeze, college students look to almost anything for a sense of relief. Often times, this can lead to drinking, drugs, sexual promiscuity, pornography, or a ton of other damaging things. What I want young people to see is t the false gods they run to will ultimately fail them because the void can only be filled by the true God in a relationship with Christ.
How does having a sense of belonging change young men and women and how they respond to life’s pressures? How important is authentic Christian community?
The Christian life was never meant to be lived in solitude, and the “I am an island” mentality of our modern culture comes into direct collision with that. Responding to life’s pressure points in seclusion will usually produce a life of disappointment and failure. However, when a student plugs in to a community like a church and campus ministry, he or she then has the opportunity to lean on fellow believers and really begin to tackle the pressures of life in a healthy way. It’s an admission of need (another modern cultural faux pas), but it shapes a heart of humility and character within a student.
Readers may find a few subjects they may not expect in Pressure Points. How important is it for college students to understand concepts such as what it means to wait or to suffer?
Impatience is one of the main character flaws our culture is guilty of today. Since we’ve gotten so used to the fast-paced speed of nearly everything, waiting is not a discipline we value or appreciate at all anymore. The Bible is full of examples of waiting on the Lord, because waiting is a faith exercise and it builds character in a way nothing else can. When young people actively wait on the Lord, it builds a depth in them that leads to the kind of integrity you can’t fake.
Another roadblock young adults stumble upon is suffering. College students don’t often see suffering in the proper way because we’ve been conditioned from a very early age to eliminate suffering of any kind once it enters our lives. I try to help them see that if we want to become more Christ-like, we are inevitably going to suffer in some form or fashion. And as we suffer, we are not alone. Jesus is right beside us in the hard times, both small and big.
How can parents best encourage their children as they transition to college and beyond?
There are, of course, many exhortations a parent can communicate to their soon-to-be college student, but one I think should be underscored is the importance of plugging in to a biblically sound gospel community of fellow believers. Not so their child can be “safe” or “shielded” from the negative aspects of the college environment, but so they can grow in their faith, share their faith, and multiply their faith in a way that invests in the lives of others for the glory of Jesus. The Lord calls us to lean into godly environments of fellow believers who will stretch us and foster an atmosphere of spiritual growth and multiplication (Matthew 28:18-20) that we might pass on our wisdom to others who should do the same.
How is the advice you share in Pressure Points particularly applicable for recent graduates/young adults entering the workforce?
We never graduate from walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, and focusing our lives on bringing glory to God, and this book certainly contains that overarching message. Practically, however, making and being a good friend, joining a church, navigating the tricky environment of modern romance, and other valuable subjects I cover in Pressure Points are highly applicable topics to recent graduates and young adults entering the workforce. Undoubtedly, young twenty-somethings can greatly benefit from what I’ve shared as they look toward beginning life post cap and gown.
Readers can find Abbott online at www.shelbyabbott.com.
, for sharing this book with my blog
readers and me. It’s important to understand how we can help our students
become successful adults. Shelby
Readers, here are links to the book.Pressure Points - Christianbook.com
Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress - Amazon paperback
Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress - Kindle
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